Villa the hero as Barça go third

Spain World Cup star David Villa scored a 49th minute winner as Barcelona beat Sporting Gijon 1-0 on Wednesday to record their first league win of the season at the Camp Nou.

Villa, 28, began his career at hometown club Gijon in 1999 and, in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi, struck a timely first goal at home for Barcelona following his 40-million-euro summer move from Valencia. It was Barcelona's first home goal of the league campaign and allowed the champions to climb to third on nine points, one point behind leaders and arch rivals Real Madrid who beat Espanyol 3-0 on Saturday.

The win gave the Camp Nou public something to cheer, after watching their side lose 2-0 to promoted Hercules in their last home league match. Since then, Barcelona have won three games on the spin.

"Of course we miss (Lionel) Messi but we have a great squad and we can go on without him," said Villa. "It was a tough game tonight. They stopped us playing our game and marked Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta closely in the first half. I am relaxed about my own game. The chances are coming and the important thing is for Barcelona to keep winning."

With Messi out with an ankle injury until the end of September, youngster Bojan Krkic, 20, was given a chance to shine up front alongside Villa and Iniesta. Nine minutes in Iniesta had a great chance for Barcelona but was foiled by smart work from goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar. A minute later Mate Bilic fired just wide of the Barcelona posts to give the home side a scare.

Barcelona were struggling to get through a well-organised bottleneck but almost got the breakthrough on 26 minutes when Bojan ran a full 60 metres as Gijon were caught on the counter attack. However, some last ditch defending stopped the Barcelona from getting his shot off and scoring what would have been a wonder goal. Villa then dragged a left-footed shot wide and at half-time the scores were level.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola brought on Pedro Rodriguez and Gerard Pique for Seydou Keita and Carles Puyol in the second half and the hosts scored four minutes after the break. Dani Alves fed a great pass to Villa who made no mistake with the finish for his second league goal of the campaign.

The goal relaxed Barcelona who played their slick possession football as Sporting chased shadows, however a game-killing second goal remained elusive, with Pique and Villa going closest in the final 10 minutes. Nerves were jangling when the visitors had a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the area in the final minute but Barcelona stood firm to take the points.

Valencia, above Barcelona on goal difference, have the chance to reclaim top spot from Real later on tonight when they host Atletico Madrid at the Mestalla Stadium. Valencia are in second place with a perfect nine points and look to maintain their 100 percent start by defeating an Atletico side which is looking to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat to Barcelona on Sunday.